Col du Tourmalet
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||This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the French Wikipedia. (July 2014)|
|Col du Tourmalet|
Col du Tourmalet
|Elevation||2,115 m (6,939 ft)|
Col du Tourmalet (2,115 m / 6,939 ft) is one of the highest roads in the central Pyrenees in the department of Hautes-Pyrénées in France. Sainte-Marie-de-Campan is at the foot on the eastern side and the ski station La Mongie two-thirds of the way up. The village of Barèges lies on the western side, above the town of Luz-Saint-Sauveur.
The Col du Tourmalet is often mistaken to be the highest road in the Pyrenees. However, public roads next to the mountain lakes Lac de Cap-de-Long and Lac d'Aumar are higher, as these lakes are at altitudes of 2161 m and 2192 m, respectively.
Meaning of "Tourmalet"
Some Frenchmen believe that Tourmalet translates into "bad trip" or "bad detour" because in French Tour translates into "trip" and mal translates into "bad" - however the correct language to translate from is Gascon, not French, because of the mountain's location in the Gascony-region and the "du" in the name, which is the Gascon pendant to the French "de". Then Tour becomes "distance", which is spelled "tur" but pronounced "tour", mal is translated into "mountain", and et becomes "the". The translation from Gascon to English then becomes "The Distance Mountain".
Details of the climb
The western side, from Luz-Saint-Sauveur, is 19 km long, climbing 1,404 m at an average of 7.4% with a maximum of 10.2% near the summit. Starting from Sainte-Marie-de-Campan, the climb is 17.2 km, gaining 1,268 m, at an average of 7.4% with a maximum of 10%. As with most French climbs, each kilometre is marked by the height of the summit, the distance to the summit, and the average gradient of the next kilometre.
From the pass itself a track leads to the Pic du Midi de Bigorre observatory (2,877 m). Up to the Col de Laquets (2,637 m) this track is a dirt and gravel road. This lower part could in principle be cycled by a trained driver with a mountain bike. It is, however, closed for any public traffic including bikes as signposted at the beginning of the track at the Col du Tourmalet. The part between the Col de Laquets and the observatory is a steep and narrow hiking track, which seems impossible to cycle uphill. Some terraces of the observatory can be entered for free from the end of the track. Paying an entrance fee, one can enter the actual observatory and also take the funicular down to La Mongie.
Tour de France
The Col du Tourmalet is one of the most famous climbs on the Tour de France. It has been included more than any other pass, starting in 1910, when the Pyrenees were introduced. The first rider over was Octave Lapize, who went on to claim the yellow jersey in Paris. In 1913, Eugène Christophe broke his fork on the Tourmalet and repaired it himself at a forge in Sainte-Marie-de-Campan.
Up to 2012, the tour has visited the Col du Tourmalet a total of 82 times, including the uncategorised passage en route to Peyragudes on Stage 17 of the 2012 tour. The total includes two stage finishes at the summit and three at La Mongie. Since 1980 it has been ranked hors catégorie, or exceptional. The Vuelta a España has also crossed the pass several times.
The 2010 edition of the Tour included the pass on two consecutive stages, crossing westward on the 16th stage to Pau and eastward on the 17th stage with a finish at the summit.
The Souvenir Jacques Goddet prize is awarded for the first rider to cross the Col du Tourmalet summit.
Origins in the Tour
Steinès first agreed that the Tour would pay 2,000 francs to clear the Col d'Aubisque, then came back to investigate the Tourmalet. He started at Sainte-Marie-de-Campan with sausage, ham and cheese at the inn opposite the church and arranged to hire a driver called Dupont from Bagnères-de-Bigorre. Dupont and Steinès made it the first 16 km, after which their car came to a stop. Dupont and Steinès started to walk but Dupont turned back after 600m, shouting: "The bears come over from Spain when it snows." Steinès set off. He mistook voices in the darkness for thieves. They were youngsters guarding sheep with their dog. Steinès called to one.
"Son, do you know the Tourmalet well? Could you guide me? I'll give you a gold coin. When we get to the other top, I'll give you another one."
The boy joined him but then turned back.
Steinès rested on a rock. He considered sitting it out until dawn, then realised he'd freeze. He slipped on the icy road, then fell into a stream. He climbed back to the road and again fell in the snow. Exhausted and stumbling, he heard another voice.
"Tell me who goes there or I'll shoot."
"I'm a lost traveller. I've just come across the Tourmalet."
"Oh, it's you, Monsieur Steinès! We were expecting you! We got a phone call at Ste-Marie-de-Campan. Everybody's at Barèges. It's coming on for three o'clock. There are search teams of guides out looking for you."
The organising newspaper, L'Auto, had a correspondent at Barèges, a man called Lanne-Camy. He took him for a bath and provided new clothes.
Steines sent a telegram to Desgrange: "Crossed Tourmalet stop. Very good road stop. Perfectly feasible."
Tour de France stage finishes
|Year||Stage||Start of stage||Distance (km)||Category||Stage winner||Yellow jersey|
|2010||17||Pau||174||HC||Andy Schleck (LUX)|
|1974||17||Saint-Lary-Soulan||119||1||Jean-Pierre Danguillaume (FRA)||Eddy Merckx (BEL)|
Other appearances in Tour de France
See also La Mongie
The Col du Tourmalet features in other bicycle races, including the Vuelta a España when it has made excursions into France. It is also on the route of cyclosportive competitions. Thousands of amateur riders make the climb every year and many take documents to have rubber-stamped in the shop at the summit to show they have made it.
- Topographic map published by IGN Number 1748 ET, Scale 1:25 000.
- Velo Peloton article about the translation
- Topographic map published by IGN Number 1747 ET, Scale 1:25 000.
- Unidentified, but the story is retold in Chany, Pierre (1988), La Fabuleuse Histoire du Tour de France, Paris: La Martinière, p. 111, ISBN 2-09-286454-8.
- Video of 1974 stage finish in front of restaurant at Col du Tourmalethttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BHDRrUpjKm0
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Col du Tourmalet.|
- Profile on climbbybike.com
- Le col du Tourmalet dans le Tour de France depuis 1947 (French)
- Complete list of leaders over summit (French)
- Tourmalet website (French)
- Bagneres de Bigorre - La Mongie website (French)
- Tourmalet cheese
- The Road to Tourmalet Reconnaissance DVD by Cyclefilm
- Streetview panoramas across the Tour route
- Details of the 1910 tour
- Col du Tourmalet on Google Maps (Tour de France classic climbs)